Encourage Reinvestment in Sarasota

Guest Correspondence

I am from Western New York. It is an area that was dying a slow death the entire 22 years I lived there. As you look to the southern part of Western New York, you will find a 17-mile body of water called Chautauqua Lake. On one end of the lake is a beautiful institute that has been modeled around the world for arts and education programs. On the other end is the City of Jamestown, the birthplace of Lucille Ball and home to the alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs. Jamestown has historically been plagued with a tough economy and poverty. The actress-comedian and the band were symbols of hope to a community that was economically suffering while I grew up.  

Jamestown has mobilized and gotten together to take care of and improve their economy. They formed a nonprofit called the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation to bring an economic vision to the city. Their efforts are on-going. The Post-Journal, the local newspaper in Jamestown, published an article this week, “City Plans New Redevelopment Tax Abatement.” This is a program aimed at encouraging redevelopment in the City of Jamestown. The program is aimed at vacant buildings and those that have outstanding code violations. Taxes will be abated on a sliding scale over a period of 11 years to encourage redevelopment. Jamestown wants to beautify their community and economically grow.

As I read this article, it struck me how much we take for granted here in Sarasota. This month, the City of Sarasota put forth the erasure of mobility impact fee credits for properties that have razed buildings from a parcel, whether that removal improved the community or not. These properties have already paid or been accounted for in their impact to city facilities. This means this is really a redevelopment tax. It affects every property owner in the city, including homeowners. At the hearing, the commission sent the proposal back to the city attorney to take another look at this, and include perhaps looking at extinguishing credit for a property that has a vacancy instead of a structure removed. That’s right, a possible tax for a struggling property that a flourishing property will not have to pay.

I think about the effects on Sarasota areas that need economic help. These areas do not need obstacles to their own renaissance. Many of the residents of these areas have been there for generations and want to reinvest in their communities and see them strengthened, like Jamestown does. They stay out of love for their community and their family. This is an incentive to leave as it will cost more to invest there than to go realize their dreams elsewhere. While this may sound good to no-growthers for traffic concerns, make no mistake about it, it will hasten the economic demise of our most historic and important communities that need our attention and help the most.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation.

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